Saturday, March 01, 2008

Tripped Bandel!

20th February, 2008

It has been a long time since I've been able to enjoy the pleasure of simple things. Doing things on an impulse seems to be a faraway dream these days. And spending some time without any real aim has become a luxury that I can't afford. Fortunately or unfortunately, however, the last weekend provided me an oppurtunity to rectify this situation.

For some reasons which I'd rather not disclose to the world, I decided to spend some time alone, with only myself as company, and far, far away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolitan city that is my home. To do so within the city seemed an impossibility. So, on an impulse, I landed up at the railway station. The local trains looked inviting, and I, on an impulse, took the first local available at the time.

The local was supposed to carry me to Bandel. There was not much that I knew or remembered about the place. The last time I'd visited Bandel was perhaps when I was in middle school, and all I remebered from that trip was that there was a famous church in there, and that the Ganges flowed in its full charisma right beside the church. But somehow, I felt myself looking forward to the trip.

As I boarded the local train, I felt strangely excited! It had been a long time since I'd travelled in a train. Time constraints and other reasons ensure that though I do travel a lot, most of it is undertaken by air. Though I don't deny that travelling by air has its own charm and comforts, trains still give me that age old feeling of a "tour"!

The journey to Bandel was uneventful. Although I did enjoy the scenic beauty of the lush green fields, with the cows lazing around in them and the swans swimming in the adjacent ponds, through which the train was tearing away, there was nothing that can possibly be penned down.

However, when I reached Bandel a couple of hours later, I felt quite disoriented. The last I remembered of the place was the country-like feeling that it had infused in me. Today, however, I was standing in a small town that was perhaps smaller in size than many of its counterparts, but apart from that, was quite urbanised! ATMs, computerised railway booking offices, cyber cafes and AC buses greeted me, and I honestly could not match the Bandel I was in with the image that I'd had in my mind...

Soon however, I had to get over the initial disorientation, and I proceeded to hire an auto rickshaw along with some other visitors to visit the church. After negotiating through a maze of narrow, winding lanes for about quarter of an hour, we reached the Bandel Basilica. It stood, splendid in a demure way, greeting the visitors with a perpetual smile, it seemed!

The Bandel Basilica Church

As I entered the church, a sense of amazing calm overcame me. For a long time, I sat in the prayer room, communicating with my inner self and calming my doubts... Soon however, it was time for the church to close down for visitors, and we were requested to leave (none too politely, though!)

I strolled out of the church, and ambled across to the riverside. Here, a shock awaited me. Where was the magnificient River Ganges that I remembered, flowing beside the church? Where were the sweet waves that I remembered, lapping onto the shores? All I could see was a stream! The sight saddened me immensely... But the sad story of Ganga is not what I want to pen down here, so I'll save it for some other time.

I stood there, on the shores, watching all the activity that was going on around me. There were picnic-ers, playing with a frisbee... a few kids, playing cricket... a couple of lovers, walking down hand in hand... The sight of them all infused mixed reactions in my mind. I wanted to go back to my childhood, I wanted to escape from the life that I live, I wanted to hold someone's hand...

I noticed a few boats ferrying tourists around. Soon, I found myself surrounded by a crowd of boatmen, wanting to give me a ride in the waters of the Ganges. I hesitated for a minute... and then went ahead. The boat, precariously small and narrow, bobbed in the waves... Soon, we were in the middle of the river, with the outline of the church visible on my left, and the outlines of the factories on my right...

Even before I'd had my fill of the boat ride, it was bobbing back to the shore...

It was evening by then. Time to go back to the place I call my home, I thought... A strange sense of sadness filled my heart as I reached the Bandel station and boarded a Howrah-bound local, which would bear me back... The memories of the trip, however, remained with me. And they promised to spice up my day whenever I allowed them to invade my mind!